February 9, 2021

Passing of J. Hillis Miller

I am greatly saddened to announce the passing of Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and English J. Hillis Miller. A titan in his field, he played an unmatched role in the elevation of UCI as the home of the finest program in literary criticism in the nation.

After earning his undergraduate degree at Oberlin College and his doctoral degree at Harvard University, Professor Miller started his academic career at Johns Hopkins University as a scholar of Victorian literature. Two decades later he joined the faculty of Yale University, where he pursued deconstructive literary criticism, an immensely influential approach to understanding the relationship between text and meaning inspired by the work of Jacques Derrida.

In 1986 Professor Miller came to UCI as Distinguished Professor of English and comparative literature. Together with Professor Derrida, whom he helped recruit to UCI, he established UCI as the national leader in the study of critical theory, a stature it continues to hold today. Professor Miller made tremendous contributions to UCI as a scholar, a teacher, and a campus citizen: during his active years on our faculty the highest ranked Ph.D. programs at UCI were in the humanities, in great part due to Professor Miller’s stature and to his successful recruiting of other major scholars. Although he formally retired in 2001, he remained active as a scholar, a lecturer, a teacher, and a mentor – he chaired or served on the dissertation committees of 20 or more students at UCI alone during this period.

The author of 35 books and many articles, Professor Miller was widely known and respected by all on campus, not only for his intellectual accomplishments, but also for his generosity with his time and effort to his colleagues, his students, and everyone with whom he interacted. He and his wife, Dorothy, were known for years as warm and gracious presences on campus and in University Hills. Dorothy Miller passed away a few weeks ago. They will both be greatly missed.

The School of Humanities will organize a memorial event.